13th October 2015
118 inspectors working for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have gathered in Panama City, Panama this week for the ITF worldwide inspectors' seminar (WWIS).
The entire inspectorate network is brought together every three years to develop new skills and plan for the delivery of ITF objectives.
Inspectors are union officials working on issues related to the ITF flags of convenience campaign in ports all over the world. Their role is to ensure seafarers have decent pay, working conditions and living conditions. They do this by carrying out inspections on ships calling in their ports. They also assist with actions to protect seafarers' rights.
Chair of the ITF seafarers' section, Dave Heindel, said: "We're pursuing fairness and justice for seafarers everywhere and in that pursuit inspectors are our soldiers. They have unique access to seafarers and unique knowledge about the challenges involved in a life at sea. Our mission this week is to strengthen the inspectorate further, to facilitate joint working and particularly at this point to build the campaigning capacity of the inspectorate network."
New inspector Heikki Karla from the Finnish Seafarers' Union, who joined the ITF last year, summed up the importance of the role of inspectors: "Ship owners have gone from simple and stable 'making a profit' to 'trying to maximise the growth of profit through cost cutting and so-called optimising.' It is always the seafarer who pays the price.
"The only way for seafarers to have decent pay and conditions is through a sound system of collective bargaining, which respects human rights and takes into account the nature of work at sea.
"The problems I see on board underline the need for spreading information and getting the seafarers to demand what belongs to them without fear of losing their jobs. We need to provide the information, support seafarers and make ship owners respect agreements and respect seafarers."